43 posts categorized "Fantasy"

April 30, 2016



Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon. Thanks a lot pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon


Ripe with allegorical possibilities (relating to the political aspects of belle epoch industrialism in America, the hollowness of organized religion, the importance of domestic over foreign policy, and the unreliability of authority figures), “The Wizard of Oz” is a beloved children’s coming-of-age film that strikes a universal chord with all audiences.

Based on L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s novel (“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”), which begat 13 novel sequels and a popular Broadway musical, the film has become a right of passage for children around the world. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced the picture in response to the success of Walt Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937).


Not only was it the most expensive film MGM had made to date, its production claimed the attention of three consecutive directors (Richard Thorpe, George Cukor, and Victor Fleming) before King Vidor was brought in by producer Mervyn LeRoy to put the finishing touches on the film.

Nonetheless, Victor Fleming is the director of record. Arriving on the heels of the Great Depression in 1939, the fantasy musical failed to make back its enormous production costs upon its initial release. It would be a decade later, during its first re-release that “The Wizard of Oz” made good on its box office promise. It did so with a vengeance. 

Screen Shot 2022-12-21 at 9.13.19 PM

The advent of Technicolor allowed the filmmakers to perform one of the greatest surprises in cinema history. After an extensive 20-minute first act, set in beige sepia-tone, Dorothy (played by Judy Garland), an adopted farm girl from Kansas, steps into the primary-color-filled world of Oz. The startling effect of going from black-and-white to color still packs a punch.

Screen Shot 2022-12-21 at 9.14.49 PM

Audiences at the time felt as if they had been jettisoned into a previously unknown realm of lush fantasy. No amount of theatrical staginess can detract from the dreamlike experience of watching Judy Garland’s wide-eyed Dorothy making fast friends with a “good” witch, a squeaky man made of tin, a floppy scarecrow, and a man in a lion suit.

With the good witch’s instruction to “follow the yellow brick road, Dorothy teams up with the scarecrow, the tin man, and the lion on a search for a unique aspect that each one is missing. The “Cowardly Lion” (Bert Lahr) needs courage. The scarecrow (Ray Bolger) wants a brain, and the Tin Man desires a heart. Dorothy desperately wants to get back home.

Screen Shot 2022-12-21 at 9.20.57 PM

Dorothy is an orphan whose emotional baggage is her greatest obstacle. There’s more than a little irony in the nature of her dream-journey as it returns her to waking life with the repeated phrase, “there’s no place like home.” It is a sentiment that reaches across all boarders and touches all people. American country music is built on that exact theme.

Screen Shot 2022-12-21 at 9.16.03 PM

As thick with metaphors as any Shakespeare play, “The Wizard of Oz” is the greatest children’s movie ever made, and that probably ever can be made. From the green-skinned evil witch to the trio of singing “lollypop kids,” the movie ignites your imagination with quirky surreal elements that embed in your DNA. It is a film that changes its viewer forever after.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

May 15, 2015


Tale-of-talesMuddled yet delightfully grotesque, ribald, and opulent Matteo Garrone’s warped fairytale triptych isn’t winning any awards in Cannes but it breathes with the cinematic madness of Ken Russell. Vincent Cassel is a hoot as a perpetually horny king ruled by his penis, and Toby Jones's performance as an impish king obsessed with a flea that grows to the size of a small hippo is something to, um, savor. 

The bizarre out-of-time narrative exists in a land apparently ruled over by three kings, each of whom has a major obsession, although only in the case of John C. Reilly's King of Longtrellis does that honor go to his Queen (played for droll kicks by an ever-youthful Salma Hayek).

Tale of Tales

The Cannes audience loved the movie even if more than a few of its members couldn't refrain from pulling out their dumb-ass cellphones periodically. 

Not Rated. 125 mins. (B) (Three stars out of five — no halves)


March 08, 2013


Oz the Great and PowerfulWhile coming nowhere near the level of dynamic storytelling of the original 1939 “Wizard of Oz,” Sam Raimi’s prequel film has sufficient charms to temporarily rescue the ongoing draught of G and PG rated family films. James Franco is congenial, if not entirely suitable for the role of Oscar Diggs, a con man magician who gets spirited away by a tornado from his black-and-white earthbound reality to a magical (colorful) land in need of some leadership.


Seams show up early in the patchwork script — by Mitchell Kapner and David Lindsay-Abaire. Although the writers try as they might to establish Oscar as a worthy protagonist during the film’s extended introduction, the character doesn’t quite take. All ambition and greed, Oscar doesn’t have a romantic bone in his body. Not even Michelle Williams’s local Kansas girl Annie can distract Oscar from his mission to be as “great” as Thomas Edison. Forget that Oscar doesn’t exhibit much skill at anything other than your basic huckster magician routines.


Once plopped down in Oz, Oscar meets up with Theodora, The Wicked Witch of the West (Mila Kunis). Theodora plays her dark cards close to the vest, making Oscar believe that it is her sister Glinda (Michelle Williams) who is the bad witch in need of some retribution for terrorizing the citizens of Oz. Theodora is happy to pin Oscar with the presaged role of folktale hero, if she can make him do her bidding. Theodora’s more evil sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) has her own twisted agenda for the newly anointed Oz. It doesn’t take Oscar a.k.a. “Oz” long to understand that Glinda is indeed the “good” witch in the equation.


“Oz the Great and Powerful” misses a wide-open opportunity for nuanced social commentary that the Depression era “Wizard of Oz” so eloquently seized. An auteur such as Guillermo del Toro would likely have been a better choice to script such a potentially rich fantasy as rooted in the global pressures of modern day existence. Don’t go looking too hard for any message beyond how it’s better to be “good” than “great.” The filmmakers didn’t set their sights high enough, and it shows. Still, “Oz the Great and Wonderful” serves its modest purpose of entertaining little ones.

Rated PG. 127 mins.

3 Stars

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Cole Smithey on Patreon

Featured Video

SMART NEW MEDIA® Custom Videos



Throwback Thursday

Podcast Series